In its meeting on Tuesday, the Icelandic government approved the recommendation of the Prime Minister, Minister of Social Affairs and Children, Minister of Justice and Minister for Foreign Affairs to accept the proposals of the Refugee Committee regarding the tragic state of affairs that has arisen in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban seizure of power.
The Refugee Committee was convened at the request of Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Social Affairs and Children, in order to work out proposals on how to respond to the state of emergency in Afghanistan. The Committee sent its proposal to the Ministries of Social Affairs, Justice, and Foreign Affairs.
The Refugee Committee proposes giving support to families living in Iceland that have the right to family reunification with family members in Afghanistan. A focus will also be put on assisting individuals who are in imminent danger due to their work in Afghanistan, whether it be for NATO or in the field of gender equality. The government’s first response and action in keeping with the Refugee Committee’s proposals will be as follows:
- Receiving employees who worked with and for NATO, along with their spouses and children. This will especially include those who worked with the Iceland Crisis Response Unit.
- Afghanis who are former students of the United Nations Gender Equality Studies Training Programme in Iceland will be invited to come to Iceland along with their spouses and children.
- The Icelandic government will assist those Afghanis who have the right to family reunification or who have already received an Icelandic residence permit but who are unable to travel independently to Iceland. They include individuals who have family relationships in Iceland, as well as individuals who intend to study here.
- Applications made for family reunification with Afghanis residing in Iceland, in accordance with the Foreign Nationals Act, will be given priority and budget resources will be increased in order to speed up the application process.
The final number of people who will be received is not currently known, but it is expected to be as many as 120 people. It is hard to estimate the exact number, since it depends on the composition of the families. Up to now, Iceland has received quota refugees from Afghanistan in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency, and will continue to do so, but in light of the current emergency situation in Afghanistan it is important for the Icelandic government to make their contribution immediately.
The Refugee Committee also proposes that an action group be set up to elaborate the implementation of the proposals, since this will be quite complicated because it entails transporting these people to Iceland, ensuring their safety and making sure they receive the assistance they will need upon arrival. The Refugee Committee is composed of representatives of the Ministers of Social Affairs and Children, Justice, and Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation. It also includes observers from the Icelandic Red Cross, the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities, and the Directorate of Immigration.
The government has requested that the Refugee Committee continues to work on issues concerning refugees from Afghanistan in the weeks to come.